StopWaste at School


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Marine Debris Resources

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, the SLWRP network met at Will C. Wood Middle School in Alameda to learn more about the impact of litter and marine debris on wildlife and oceans and ways that teachers and students can take action to make a difference while learning science, math, and other key concepts.


  • 4:30-5:30 | Field Work. Learning micro-debris collection protocols at the beach.
  • 5:30-6:30 | Plastics and Ocean Life. Presentation from Jennifer Stock of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
  • 6:30-6:45 | Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit. Overview of innovative teacher professional development and student engagement program offered by the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • 6:45-7:00 | NOAA Ocean Guardian Schools. Overview of NOAA's grant program to support schools in taking actions that help protect oceans and watershed.
  • 7:00-7:10 | Announcements

Field Work

Sifting through the sand for debris.Sifting through the sand for debris.Wood Middle School teacher Jeannette Frechou and a team of her 6th grade students led a hands on workshop at Crown Memorial Beach in Alameda sharing their process for collecting and analyzing micro-debris.

Using meter sticks, participants blocked off 1 meter square plots at the tideline. After marking the corners of the plot with spoons stuck in the sand, each team used scoops and sifters to sort through the sand to find small pieces of litter.

Students explained that the small pieces of plastic are a particular concern because they are small enough to be eaten by smaller fish and animals. Through a process called bio-accumulation toxic chemicals attached to the bits of plastic can work their way up the food chain in ever increasing concentrations.

Teacher Kate Trimlett was one of the 1st in the group to find a nurdle.Teacher Kate Trimlett was one of the 1st in the group to find a nurdle.Participants kept a keen eye out for "nurdles," pre-production plastic "pebbles," that often spill into the ocean from shipping containers or wash into storm drains and out to sea from careless plastic manufactuers on land.

In about 30 minutes, the teachers and students had collected 214 bits of polystyrene, 117 pieces of plastic, 93 nurdles, 41 cigarette filters and 4 other pieces of debris.

Frechou explained that persistent organic pollutants attach to the small bits of plastic and that a lab in Tokyo, Japan is using this fact to track the spread and distribution of pollution in the oceans. Frechou's students regularly collect and submit nurdles to the Pellet Watch project for analysis.

Frechou also highlighted ways she's been able to collaborate with a wide range of partners to increase the rigor and relevance of student work. In one example, she partnered with the Ocean Guardian program and East Bay Regional Parks to have her students create beach-side informational signage educating the public about the impacts of litter on oceans.

Extensive documenation of the good work taking place at Wood Middle School is posted here.


Plastics and Ocean Life

Jennnfer Stock, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, provided an overview of the impacts of plastics on ocean life. Stock highlighted how plastic interacts with marine environments describing how currents and winds move plastics in the ocean, how plastics photo-degrade in to smaller and smaller bits while at the same time attaching persistent organic pollutants that work their way into food webs as organisms ingest the plastic.

Stock highlighted the role of the albatross as an indicator species regarding the impacts of plastics. Because of the albatross's vast migration paths, they ingest food (and litter) spanning a wide geographic area. When adults return to the nests to feed the young, they frequently pass along ingested plastics which can starve, choke or congest young birds and adults alike.

Download Stock's presentation and notes here (pptx format).

logo_wingedambassadorslogo_wingedambassadorsOikonos, the National Marine Sanctuaries and other partners have collaborated to create a free, online curriculum called Winged Ambassadors to help teachers and students understand these issues better. Click here to access the Winged Ambassador curriculum.

In 2009, Stock presented to SLWRP and Save the Bay. Resources from that workshop are archived here.


Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit

Mary Whaley, Teacher Program Coordinator for the Monterey Bay Aquarium provided an overview of the Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit which seeks to educate teachers and empower students to take action to reduce the use and impacts of single use disposable plastic items on the oceans.

This year's Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit featured:

  • A teacher professional development conference and overnight stay at the aquarium. The conference was keynoted by Wallace J. Nichols who highlighted his work studying sea turtles and his efforts to engage a wider coalition of people in conservation and stewardship efforts.
  • Networking and planning support to help teachers develop service-learning action plans with their students.
  • A mid-year, mini-conference to add content support for teachers and facilitate the sharing of project planning ideas. The mini-conference was keynoted by author Susan Freinkel who described her research writing Plastic: A Toxic Love Story which describes the scientific, economic and political history of plastic.
  • A year-end celebration and student leadership overnight at the aquarium where select student leaders will share their projects with each other.

Click here for the Monterey Bay Aquarium's presentation about the Ocean Plastic Pollution summit.

The Aquarium recently secured funding for another year of the Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit.  Stay tuned for more details on how to sign up.

In the meantime, check out the Aquarium's full range of amazing teacher education programs.



NOAA Ocean Guardian Schools

Naomi Pollack from the Ocean Guardian Schools program shared information about grants and recognition to support the efforts of California schools in taking measurable actions to help reduce human impacts on the oceans.

Grants range from $1000-$4000 and schools may re-apply for up to 5 years of funding. This year's grant cycle opens April 1 and is due May 1. For more details visit the Ocean Guardian Schools website.





  • The Altamont Education Advisory Board is seeking waste reduction grant applications between now and April 19. Mini grants range from $500-$3000 and the board plans to distribute $150,000 in mini grants this year in Alameda and San Francisco counties.
  • EarthTeam's Visuals and Voices program is seeking submissions of environmentally themed student art work, photography, poetry and more. Download the flyer for all the details.
  • Registration for LEAF (the Leadership and Environmental Action Forum) will open soon. LEAF is our student leadership development program taking place Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Visit EarthTeam's website to see the latest.